USDA cites Lazy 5 during inspection; park says deficiencies corrected

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A federal inspector who visited the Lazy 5 Ranch on Mooresville Road last month reported finding a giraffe with overgrown hooves, out-of-date and missing records, lax supervision of visitors and an inadequate environment for eight lemurs.
An employee at the exotic animal attraction said today some of the deficiencies were quickly corrected and others were not accurate.
The findings were outlined in a U.S. Department of Agriculture report dated April 1. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a frequent critic of Lazy 5 and owner Henry Hampton, said on its website the inspection occurred after the group passed along a visitor’s complaint about the giraffe’s hooves.
Hampton was given until today to correct the problem with the giraffe’s hooves and until April 15 to correct the other issues.
According to the report, the USDA veterinary medical officer visited Lazy 5 for a routine inspection and wrote the giraffe’s hooves “need to be trimmed to prevent discomfort and development of abnormal gait.”
Hampton told the inspector the giraffe’s hooves were scheduled to be trimmed prior to a planned transport later in the month, the report said.
Sarah Beth Rogers, an employee at Lazy 5, said the giraffe’s hooves were trimmed April 19 and the animal left Tuesday for a farm in Ohio.
Records of acquisitions and dispositions were missing or out of date for a number of animals, the report said, including five kangaroos, three African porcupines, one camel baby and one giraffe baby and a newly acquired Grevy zebra. There were no records for a missing giraffe and zebra.
Rogers said animal park employees take each February to vaccinate animals, perform pregnancy tests and perform other tasks that mean “we put our hands on all them.” After that, they can get an accurate count and produce the records, which they hadn’t yet done by April 1.
“When the inspector was here that day, we wrote it down right in front of her,’ Rogers said. “It’s something we corrected in five minutes.”
The inspector saw visitors feeding and petting animals with no Lazy 5 employees present, and wrote that an employee escorting him said nothing to a man who put his son on the roof of their car next to the giraffe enclosure so the child could feed a giraffe.
Rogers called that “a tough one.” She acknowledged Lazy 5 has been given a deficiency in the past for not having an adequate barrier between animals and park visitors, but said the people who run the park disagree with federal inspectors over what constitutes adequate.
The park has signs instructing visitors to stay in their cars, and “it all boils down to common sense,” she said.
“In the last 21 years we’ve been open, there’s never been an injury or inappropriate contact between the public and animals,” Rogers said.
Finally, the inspector’s report said eight ringtail lemurs housed temporarily in a rhino barn had only one perch for enrichment, and one lemur housed separately had nothing.
Rogers called that inaccurate. She said the lemurs were housed in the rhino barn for two weeks while employees performed maintenance on the animals’ regular habitat, but “they did have more than a stick in there for enrichment.”
Further, she said, “The lemurs are out 12 hours a day, able to run and play and do everything they need to do.”
Rogers said the park posted pictures of the giraffe having its hooves trimmed on its Facebook page, and posts other information there to show people what goes on “behind the scenes.” The page can be reached through the park’s website,
She said, however, that visiting the park in person is the best way to judge how the animals and public are treated.
“We really encourage people to come and form their own opinion,” she said.